Institutionalization

Institutionalization is the couch indent

It’s feeling so at home in our thoughts

We miss our depression when in remission

The stability of groundhogs day

The stability of groundhogs day

The stability of groundhogs day

It’s why so many of us finally give in

Just as the right medication kicks in

It’s too much too fast

It’s questioning it all from the cocoon

Then finally getting our wings

Only to fly high enough to plummet

Don’t get me wrong there are bars

But the day comes when they change

They no longer hold us in

But keep the world out

It’s that movie where prisoners are freed

Walking out into the sun they are blinded

The light actually causes physical pain

It’s more than just getting used to

It’s more like getting dependent on

We desperately need a sense of control

In this chaotic world

Whether we find it in bed in a dark room

In the bottom bunk in a 6 by 8 cell

At a mindless, unappreciative job

We know exactly what to expect

There are very few variables

We are the water that Bruce Lee speaks of

Desperately looking for a dusty cup

That’s rarely removed from the shelf

Maybe it’s all shades of grey

The varying degrees of sadness

Before we step out

Into the blinding light

We should take the trip slowly

From the depths of the pitch sea bottom

In a kind of decompression chamber

That trickles the light in, in degrees

So by the time we breathe fresh air

We won’t recoil in pain from the sun

This birthing in dimly lit room in a hot tub

Life is harsh…take it easy on yourself

And ease into it

Cornhusk Doll

I’ve been thinking about childhood

Those fleeting puffs of foggy exhalation

Rising from a deer’s muzzle just before it darts

The what brought me heres

The what made me whats

The what I bought marred me where ats

Cheese grater logic

My childhood was not unusual

Don’t we always think this?

We could’ve been daddy’s little helper

Grabbing the shovel off the back of the truck

Listening to it scrape against the road

The smell of a bloated raccoon settling in our lungs

And on that lonely, country road

We defined the word normal

And perhaps, no not perhaps, but with certainty

We defined ourselves

It wasn’t until we made friends

Until we had sleepovers

Until they took us to their places of worship

That we learned the raccoons we carried in us were different

That some heard the tinkling of a shop keeper’s bell

Not a scraping shovel

And the tinkling brings the flavor of ice cream to mouth

While others heard the slick sound of leather

Gliding through belt loops

This brings a different, salty, coppery flavor to mouth

In books we learn that despite how different we appear

We are much more alike

We hug those broken characters

And in doing we hug ourselves

Happiness and joy have faces

Sadness and pain do not

One is photographed

The other is smothered beneath down pillows

Living your whole life allergic to feathers made you that unlikely to fly

So it’s in these exchanges

Sleepovers, books, comparing and contrasting

That we give face to our tenderness

Despite what mischievousness may come

Hold the gaze and be ready to embrace

Healing is necessary

Like a clean road, without death’s reminders, is necessary

Even if just in stretches

You can’t sustain the same facial expression forever

Except in death and in memory

And in photos

Don’t disassociate

Give it a face and a name

Anchor it in thought and emotion’s hue

Take ownership of the repercussions

Give it a face

[On one of my many trips to the reservation of my ancestors, my clean air fund, my gentle reminder that you can both be loved and feel just slightly out-of-place, as we half-breeds often become vaguely aware of, I was told not to draw a face on the cornhusk doll I was creating. It was a shared moment between me and my beautiful, Native-complete cousins, that suddenly, taking on a list due to course change or the water getting in, looked askew or askance. Don’t give it a face or it will get into mischief. You’ll find the doll in places you didn’t put it. This undoubtedly bothered me. The spookiness of it. Now, as I’m thinking of childhood, the elements of of it make me uneasy. Children. Faceless dolls. A clear warning against mischievousness. I suspect it’s settled into my middle aged frame. Trace minerals that either lend to stronger or weaker bones. I’d like to think I secreted a face on that cornhusk doll. As much for me as for you, both then and now]

She thinks

She thinks she’s the emotional one

Crying during sad movies

I adore her in those moments

Seeing beneath the bark for an instant

When the movie’s over she’s ironwood

She thinks I’m stoic—evergreen

She sees my smile at the death scene

I’m not making fun in those moments

I’m envious

I’m touched and I’m envious

I see her tender humanity then

But I’m jealous of those moments

As they are seldom

For me there is a tissue thin veneer

I am always on the verge

Always wounded and mourning

She is a mighty oak

Dripping seasonal rains

I am a weeping willow

Whose roots run six feet deep

Having weathered countless storms

Many branches haven’t budded in years

They are stiff and creak in the wind

I’ve a hollowed trove of nuts

For a squirrel that’s never returned

Rotten leaves serve as mulch

Feeding on my own decay

Giving me the energy to wax poetically

The parts of me that are green

They are green because of her

I try to shade her in a mad world

But I lean into her and she doesn’t know

I’m always afraid of the next big storm

That it will take me down

Uproot me

She’s a mighty oak

But, she thinks I’m the strong one

Overlay

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Would you believe me

If I told you

The song playing in the other room

Just faint enough to be imperceptible

Will color your entire day

That it’s set your head askew

It’s an overlay

The weather in the novel you’re reading

Is an outward projection

Of the main character’s inner turmoil

The howling wind

The driving rain

The rainbow that sometimes follows

Your subconscious will hum that song

As your own weather system moves in

An unwitting participant

An actor following stage directions

Every night the play is slightly different

Every day a different song plays

In the other room

Just out of earshot

Each day, unaware you hum these tunes

An ear worm

It burrows into the minds around you

They begin to weather parallel storms

Manifestation

Virus

Synaptic transference

Daisy chain

Bucket brigade

The buckets are filled with tears

Of joy

Of sorrow

Of acceptance

They taste like the song

If you want to be the change

Get up and go to that other room

Change the station

To a song that stokes your flame

Of hope

Of empathy

Of love

No amount of buckets could douse

Then go about your day

Humming

Until the whole world resonates with you

Until the ripples reach the darkest corners

Change the station and change the world

Am/Is/Are

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Masturbation is the frantic scratching of a phantom limb

Happiness is a momentary suspension of clear sighted realism

Unconditional love is antithetical to survival due to loss of self

Politics is a real life Plato’s cave and we are the prisoners

Money is the mortar we use to build walls out of our insecurities 

Kissing grew from chewing food and passing it by mouth to our babies 

Dilated pupils are attractive only because we see our attractiveness reflected

I’m a dog who only wants to be petted but was taught to smell cancer

And I’m just sitting here trying to figure out why I cry watching Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams’ character says, “It’s not your fault.  It’s not your fault.  It’s not your fault…”

Embolism

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Homeostasis is the yin yang of energy exchange

          The lighter goes out and the needle sucks up the amber

Equilibrium is a parasol in the hand of a tightrope walker 

          Through a cotton ball filter

A random number generator built from the algorithm of ginger ale bubbles 

          He was either new, careless or greedy

Two imperceptible bubbles combine and wink into existence 

          Maybe all the above

The paper thin walls allow the oxygen to pass into capillaries 

          When he drove that spike into his hungry vein

He said he knew frogs breathed through their skin

          He forgot to tap the syringe and plunger out the air

Because they died from the gasoline before he could get the lighter lit

          Before the high had time to hit he watched a clear section slide up his arm

He remembered a science experiment with celery and red food coloring 

          Frantically he hammered on his arm with his other hand

The celery looked like it had blood running through arteries 

          Hoping to break up the large bubble into much smaller less lethal ones

All the talk of good intentions were folly in his eyes—be the change

          Brain spinning like a top thinking death was nigh

He was steeped in class struggle and was an activist through osmosis 

          Two imperceptible bubbles combine and wink into existence 

Chant

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I think that when I’m picking at self inflicted wounds, channeling the dead, dying and dishonored, feeling the full weight of the world’s apathy upon my chest, and bleeding it upon the page…that I’m at my most sane. In fact, I would say that it is during those periods when I sleepwalk through life, filling a role, swallowing back the acid at the rear of my throat with a smile, and become a living currency, an end to a means, that I’ve slipped into an oubliette of depravity. Sublimating the curses and tics of universal verity bubbling up from the magma of my bones is the original sin, that can only be abated by chanting a prayer older than any Hail Mary’s, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo’s. I am here for but a moment. Allow me to love you, to be loved by you, and to be remembered. I am here for but a moment. Allow me to love you, to be loved by you, and to be remembered. I am here for but a moment…

Marathon

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I’m tired. Wondering if this marathon is worth it. There are moments of happiness but these bittersweet, pixie stick, sprinklings don’t make this dead horse I’ve been beating taste any better. I need these motions I’ve been going through to have a sense of novelty, or this tin man is gonna start waving off the oil, and let the tears that always seem to be just at bay flow until the rust sets in. But we are what we do and I’m just a lumberjack who, as a child, dreamt of seeing the stars—thanks to my mom and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. No matter how fast or hard I chop these baobabs I don’t clear any sky. Even the mightiest of oaks bend to the will of the wind over time. I think that’s how I ended up here. A steady northerly. Now I’m a twisted bonsai on someone’s mantle and I’m trying like hell to drown out the screaming birds that inhabit my tree felling dreams. I’m just wondering if the promise of a new day is adequate payment for today’s indignities—if this marathon’s finish line is worth the effort. So many have went from tired to retired to expired in short order, but that’s the carrot they dangle. Carrots help you see in the dark, which might be the key to dealing with your golden years. I hope, by then, I’ll be able to shake the chill that’s settled in the marrow of my weary bones. 

Mandala

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I took my poems and pinned them to a giant cork board. Butterflies of every hue. Like a conspiracy theorist or a detective hunting a serial killer, I connected the poems with string. My crazy wall. I connected them by how old I was in the memory that spawned the poem, by themes of love and loss, by which of the two poles I steered towards, or away from, if the poem was looking in the past, thoughts of the future or grounding myself in the present. It started out looking like a spiderweb, and I plucked the strings of love and watched the poems thrum and give off chords of joy. Then I strummed the strings of loss and a mournful sound issued forth, making the room waver and dance. The strings of depression hung limply and could not be played, but the beauty of their draping form stood out amongst all the straight lines and angles, and the strings of anxiety were so tight they were shrill in the plucking…almost pulling the poems from the board. As my eyes moved about the board I found myself, simultaneously, smiling and teary-eyed.  As the web flowed about in waves from the welling tears, I had to wipe my eyes clear. To my astonishment, within what was to become my life’s dream catcher, was an outline of myself, arms outstretched to what could only be stars. Dumbfounded at how I didn’t see it sooner, I traced my fingertips about the edge of it. My hand eventually settling on a bare spot, a hole, at the center of this wondrous mandala, right where my outline’s heart should reside. I pondered whether this void represented the parts of me I’ve kept hidden or parts I’ve yet to discover. I vowed to fill this hole. To keep writing. To keep catching butterflies.